Respiratory Compromise

Respiratory compromise negatively impacts a person’s ability to breathe and increases the likelihood of complications and healthcare costs. Respiratory compromise, though common and potentially deadly, is preventable. You and your doctors can help stop it from occurring or worsening.

Preventing Respiratory Compromise

One way to help prevent respiratory compromise is to familiarize yourself with the risk factors. These include: age, obesity, apnea, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among others. Risk factors also include certain sedatives or pain medications, such as opioids. Also, ask how patients are monitored at your hospital. Having your vital signs continuously monitored may help reduce and prevent respiratory compromise.

Examples of vital sign monitoring include:

  • Pulse oximetry, which measures the oxygen levels of your blood
  • Capnography, which measures the level of carbon dioxide in your exhaled breath

Capnography or Breath Monitoring, Can Help Save Lives

Capnography, also known as breath monitoring, gives clinicians a view into a person’s respiratory health. Breath monitoring is important because certain medications can slow down breathing and heart rate. Breath monitoring alerts clinicians to changes in breathing that may be an early sign of a serious respiratory problem.

How Breath Monitoring Works

Plastic tubing connected to a capnography monitor is placed on the face. The monitor measures the level of carbon dioxide exhaled on each breath. An alarm will let doctors or nurses know if the breathing:

  • Becomes shallow
  • Speeds up
  • Slows down

Groups Supporting Capnography

Over the last several years, numerous groups have issued statements supporting the expanded use of capnography.

These include, among others, the:

  • American Society of Anesthesiologists
  • Association of PeriOperative Registered Nurses
  • Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates
  • Society of Interventional Radiology

To learn more about respiratory compromise, visit:

View Respiratory Compromise Animation:

To see a recent webinar on respiratory compromise, visit:

If you have any questions, please speak with a care team member.